Sunday, 1 December 2013

Hygeia house

Hygeia house has it's own history.
Hygeia House is not only the school where William Heath Vlieland worked in 1865 but also the place where his children were born.
About the house.

Henry Thompson – a Liverpool banker and an important developer of the very early 19th century, responsible for laying out most of Montpellier. His efforts started in 1801 when he bought 400 acres of land from the Revd Delabere. He built Hygeia House (called Vittoria House from 1813) in Vittoria Walk as a home for himself with a spa on site (the house still stands today), and a salts manufactory for extracting minerals from spa water, which survives as the Playhouse Theatre in Bath Road, built around 1806. The project grew rapidly and he laid out a great many beautiful walks and rides, including Montpellier Gardens, and built a lot of fine villas to go with it. In 1808 he opened a new spa near the top end of Montpellier to replace the one in his house, initially a wooden chalet, but replaced with a stone building in 1817, now known as the Rotunda (the dome is a slightly later addition). He also built Montpellier Gardens with an avenue of trees towards the town centre. After his death his son Pearson took over the development of the estate.

Pearson Thompson – son of Henry, born around 1796 and only about 25 when he inherited his father’s estate, which he continued to develop with great enthusiasm and generous budgets. He commissioned the famous architect J B Papworth for several projects, firstly to add the dome of the Rotunda at Montpellier Spa and then for the design and layout of the Lansdown area. Pearson Thompson’s estate was the first development in Cheltenham to have a purpose built sewerage system, although his properties also had a reputation for being “damp and unwholesome”. Although the Montpellier enterprise was hugely successful in the boom years of the early 19th century when spas were in their heyday, it didn’t survive the 1825 credit crunch, and he was forced to scale back and eventually sell off his developments to the Jearrad brothers in 1830. At that time he had just begun work on Lansdown Crescent, designed by Papworth, and had only built one house. The Jearrads completed it in a simpler and cheaper style, although it’s still a pretty impressive crescent.

Pearson Thompson was a Barrister of Law as well as a property developer. The grandiose Hatherley Court was most likely built for him in 1833 but he was only able to live there for a few years. The 1841 census shows him at age 45 still residing at Hatherley Court with his wife Dorothy (44) and children Pearson Scott (18), Ann Catherine (17) and Mary Ann (14), along with five domestic servants. However he was forced to sell it later the same year and move into a more modest dwelling in his former Lansdown estate due to financial troubles. Among his contemporaries it seems he was widely disliked; the Cheltenham Looker-On describes him in 1850 as “not very popular among his fellow townsmen” and he had a reputation for dodgy-dealing, impropriety with his clients’ money and selfish pursuit of his own interests. He emigrated to Australia in 1849 in an attempt to revive his fortunes, and died in 1872

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